Tenth Sunday After Pentecost
August 13, 2017
"THE GOSPEL IS OUR GREATEST TREASURE"
Pastor Harold Fleischhauer of Houston, Texas has a number of old fishing lures in his garage. He stores them in an old syrup can. Since the lures date back to the 1930’s, they are not very shiny. When his children were small, he would show them the lures and put them back on the shelf in the garage. Then his son met a man who deals in antique fishing lures. He recalled his Dad’s old lures in the garage and took them to the dealer for an appraisal. Much to his amazement, the dealer said they are worth $600! Pastor Fleischhauer never realized that he owned such a “hidden” treasure!
But Pastor Fleischhauer has a greater treasure than that, one he shares with his congregation every Sunday – the gospel. In two parables in today’s Gospel, Jesus compares it to a treasure hidden in a field and a pearl of great value. This treasure and pearl is “the kingdom of heaven,” God’s saving activity here on earth in which He calls sinners to faith through the gospel which promises the forgiveness of sins and the unending joy of heaven. “THE GOSPEL IS OUR GREATEST TREASURE.” 1. It is worth our total investment. 2. It benefits us and many others.
Jesus teaches that the gospel is worth our total investment when He compares it to “a treasure” (v44), from which we get our English word thesaurus. As a thesaurus is a storehouse of words and synonyms, God’s storehouse includes Jesus, our priceless treasure, the riches of His full and free forgiveness and the wealth of His unfailing love. Money cannot buy this treasure that gives everlasting life. It is a free gift of God’s grace (Ro 6:23).
Jesus teaches that the gospel is worth our total investment when He compares it to “a fine pearl” (v45). In ancient times pearls were more precious than gold. A pearl is also beautiful. The gospel is beautiful because it tells us that God in His grace loves us instead of condemns us and gives us peace and contentment and the privilege of serving Him now and forever.
Jesus teaches the gospel is worth our total investment whether you found it or it found you. Whether one stumbles onto it like the man who found the treasure hidden in the field; or like the apostle Paul who came upon this treasure suddenly and unexpectedly when Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus or like Peter whom Jesus called to fish for people when he was cleaning his nets by the Sea of Galilee or like Matthew whom Jesus approached while he sat in his tax collector’s booth in Capernaum.
Whether one intently searches for the gospel like “a merchant looking for pearls” (v45); or like the Ethiopian who was diligently reading Isaiah 53 when Philip revealed the treasure of Christ’s passion recorded there or like the jailer at Philippi who asked Paul and Silas this searching question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Ac 16:30) or like the Berean Christians who “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Ac 17:11b). It really doesn’t matter.
Whether God came seeking us or if we found Him after a long, intense search, recognizing “THE GOSPEL IS OUR GREATEST TREASURE” means it is worth our total investment. That’s why the man who found the hidden treasure “went and sold all he had and bought that field” (v44). That’s why the merchant who found the pearl of great value “went away and sold everything he had and bought it” (v46). That’s why Jesus taught that His disciples are in the world, not of the world. The gospel calls us away from misplaced priorities, sinful lifestyles and false beliefs. That’s why we avoid all that challenges the supremacy of God in our hearts and lives. That’s why we cannot have one hand glued to earthly treasures and still lay hold of heaven. That’s why we will avoid acts, words and desires contrary to God’s holy will. Because by God’s grace we have found “THE GOSPEL IS OUR GREATEST TREASURE.” Therefore, it is worth our total investment.
When Jesus had finished all these sayings, He asked His disciples, “‘Have you understood all these things?’ ‘Yes,’ they replied” (v51). The purpose of His parables was to teach His followers and confuse His enemies. If His disciples hadn’t understood His parables, Jesus would have failed to accomplish His purpose. But they did understand what Jesus taught. They grasped these new insights into the kingdom of heaven. They were now equipped to teach others. Likewise “THE GOSPEL IS OUR GREATEST TREASURE,” because 2. it benefits us and many others.
“Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old” (v52). Jesus’ disciples had a true understanding of God, of the way of salvation and his Word. They were now in a position to dispense God’s treasures to others too. The Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ day were not so well equipped, although officially trained in the OT. They were more concerned with rabbinical tradition than with scriptural truth. They were more concerned with adding human laws to God’s laws. In their blindness they no longer saw or understood the real message and purpose of the OT. Instead of seeing God’s forgiving grace there, they only saw rules and regulations to save themselves. And they certainly did not see Jesus as the promised Messiah, the Son of God!
Jesus not only explained to His disciples the real meaning of the OT. He also revealed new truths. They now lived in the age of fulfillment of God’s promises and had the Son of God Himself as their teacher. They were seeing and hearing things not seen or heard before. As Jesus said, “For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it” (Mt 13: 17). Jesus was teaching them so that they might be able to teach others. He was equipping them to bring the gospel to the entire world.
Through His Word Jesus trains us for Christian living, service and witness. A Christian will be eager to learn more and gain an ever-deeper understanding of God’s truth. In his explanation of the 3rd Commandment in his Large Catechism, Luther says that God’s Word “always awakens new understanding, new pleasure, a new spirit of devotion, and it constantly cleanses the heart and its meditations. For these words are not idle or dead, but effective and living” (LC I, 101). Christians will want to learn more so that we will be prepared for every opportunity to share the gospel with others.
A certain museum display case contained a beautiful, old Bible. It was exquisitely made and showed the care and skill of a devoted craftsman. The tooled leather binding was exquisite. On top of the case was a sign which read: “HANDS OFF!” That beautiful Bible will be tenderly preserved, but few hands will touch its precious binding. No hearts will plumb the depths of its message or find comfort in its life-giving words. No tears will stain its pages. No resolutions will be written in its margins. That Bible is a priceless treasure, but it is also no longer serving the purpose for which it was written!
You and I have no such excuse. What was true in Moses’ day and Jesus’ day is still true in our day: “The word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it” (Dt 30:14). God’s Word is as close as our Bibles, the internet and the Scripture passages we have committed to memory. We need to know it even better to share with those who seek worth-less treasures and counterfeit kingdoms. They desperately need to know and have God’s truth. God in His grace has given us the most precious treasure, the most beautiful pearl, at the costliest price – the life of His Son – in the saving gospel we have accepted and believed. God help us to freely share it so that many others may know its saving benefits too. AMEN.